In free-spawning marine invertebrates, the amount of maternal energy that is invested in each egg has profound implications for all life-history stages of the offspring. The eggs of echinoids are freely spawned into the water and are surrounded by several structurally complex extracellular layers. These extracellular layers, or jelly coats, do not contribute energy to embryonic development but must impose an energy cost on the production of each egg. The investment of maternal energy reserves in the jelly coats of echinoid eggs may have important implications for the number of eggs that can be produced (i.e., fecundity) and the amount of energy that can be invested in each egg. We estimated the degree to which maternal energy is invested in the jelly coats surrounding eggs of the echinoid Arbacia punctulata. Estimates were derived from measurements of the amount of energy contained in the combined eggs and jelly coats, and in the eggs alone. The amount of energy contained in A. punctulata eggs ranged from 2.70 to 5.53 x 10(-4) J egg(-1). The amount of energy contained in the jelly coats ranged from 0.13 to 0.48 x 10(-4) J jelly coat(-1). The mean concentration of energy in the eggs was 2.15 mm(-3) and 0.29 J mm(-3) in the jelly coats. These results indicate that between 3% and 11% (mean = 7%) of the total energy invested in each A. punctulata egg is partitioned to the jelly coat alone. A significant positive relationship was found between the volumes of the jelly coats and the amount of energy they contained. Based on this relationship and an analysis of differences in the size of jelly coats between echinoid species, we suggest that the degree to which energy is invested in jelly coats may vary among echinoid species and is therefore likely to be an important life-history characteristic of these organisms.
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